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Friday, November 30, 2007

Choosing a mentor

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> --- In This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., "Ryan"> . . .
Here is my question: As a younger and less experienced modeler, I would be thrilled to work through the design process with one (or a few) of the more experienced members. So, is there anyone that would be willing to give of themselves to help me gain experience and pass on what I have learned to someone else someday?

> Ryan,

As a 3rd year newbie myself, I'd like to chime in on this. So far as mentors, I've got to say the ones I can buy a cup of coffee for are the ones I most listen to. When a fellow seems to have all the answers on the web I follow these rules:

First thing I do is see if I can find his or her railroad and see how much I can respect and appreciate that. Some guy's layouts, IF they have one are near impossible to find. They say a picture is worth a thousand or even ten thousand words. On the web, discernment of the value of the opine or fact base can be difficult. I was surprised at how little I could appreciate the work of some of the most noisy fellows. And I have been fascinated at how much I respect the work of some of those who I have the most difficulty with what they say online. To me, their work trumps their words.

Second, I try to find out if the person has a business interest in model railroading. Often, the input is heavily biased towards a particular vendor or supplier only to find out the opinionator has a vested interest in the success of some specific venue. I've even caught some of these rascals unfairly condemning their competition in the name of enlightenment.

Third, Just how much experience does the person have? Often I find that those with the most have the least value to me because of these reasons:
1 - They are frequently deeply invested and biased towards a particular niche in our hobby. Examples: they may be obsessed with track work or operations while at the same time may have contempt for computerized operations or even DCC and oft consider my desire for continuous running as heresy.
2 - Their income can heavily influence their opine, consider the extreme example of the fellow living on a very tight fixed income will be heavily biased toward the cheapest possible way to do anything regardless of how much time & skill it might take. While I can respect the need for fiscal responsibility toward my RR, time & skill are issues as well. RTR rolling stock, track work, buildings and electronics has a place in my current budget and time line.
3 - Skills; persons with extraordinary experience typically have well refined skills and abilities. They'll tell you straight faced that building your own turnouts is EASY when in fact it is anything but easy for some. Or their level of acceptability of homemade may be very different from mine. Works both ways doesn't it?
4 - Prototype fidelity is a bias that cannot be easily reconciled. For example the demand for scale fidelity will drive a person to condemn one's choice for choosing code 100 track because it is ~.013 inches too high. But also advocate the use of hidden staging which is totally un-prototypical. I say you can't have it both ways.

Wrapping it up, Ryan, unless you live in the hinterlands and have absolutely no access to local clubs and other individuals, local faces would be my opine.

Only my 2 cents, never worth another penny.

Joe Daddy



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